Solution Provider Spotlight: ChaseDesign

March 22, 2023
by Peter Cloutier, Commercial Strategy Lead – ChaseDesign, Tenure With Current Company: 4 Years, Years of Industry Experience: 26

Give us a brief history of your company, when and how did you get started and what is your high-level mission statement?

ChaseDesign got started over 60 years ago, by Dave Chase. The company began as an Industrial Design firm, dedicated to using Design Thinking to create more intuitive, more useful products. For Energizer, we invented flashlights that float, and the headlamps people now take for granted when camping. Energizer wasn’t sure how these innovations should be displayed and shelved at retail, so we worked with their largest retail partners to reimagine the flashlights, camping and battery sections in stores. P&G saw what we were doing and hired us to help them bring a more shopper-led view to how their brands show-up at retail. This grew into helping P&G develop their first Innovation Center (customer collaboration center), to more persuasively collaborate with their largest retail customers. We’ve gone on to develop Innovation Centers for Nestle, Starbucks, MARS and many more.

Our core value proposition is in translating how and why people buy into more persuasive experiences, no matter where they shop, to deliver incremental revenues, at full price.

We create more persuasive shopping environments for consumers, and we build more engaging and productive collaboration environments for our client’s business-to-business partners.

What would you like CMA and SIMA members to know about your brand/company?

Design may be in our name, but the real value ChaseDesign brings is the in-depth understanding we create around shoppers.  Sure, we leverage market structures, decision trees, scanner data and other quantitative data our clients provide.  But our secret sauce is in the ethnography work we do with shoppers, to focus on why they do what they do, not just what they’re doing.

We develop a fuller picture of our clients’ shoppers that enables us to take a future focused view – what the category experience and presentation could be, and how our clients’ brands can become the more obvious choice for shoppers.  We present our solutions in a Now, Next, and Future framework that allows our clients and their retail partners to bridge the current retail experience into attainable steps that lead to a future vision that will deliver growth.

And it’s not a matter of opinion.  We thoroughly test our solutions with the shoppers of our client’s largest retailers, either in physical shopper labs or virtually. Our proven strategies and approaches result in very high adoption rates by retailers to move into pilot tests, and ultimately full roll-out.

What is the most common question you hear from current and potential customers, and how do you answer it?

There’s always some mix of shopping in-store and online that goes into most purchases.  So, the most common question we get asked is “How does your process capture the online portion of the journey, and then help shape what the category and brand look like online?”

It’s true that shopping today is both an instore and online experience.  And of course, this can differ dramatically by category.  But in general, when it comes to online shopping, shoppers tell us it’s easy to get lost in the “endless aisles” online can mean.  The real challenge is in finding simpler, easier ways for shoppers to find and buy what they’re looking for.

Why are the categories and brand pages laid out in ways that make shoppers work harder?  Because we have defaulted too much decision making to algorithms and paid placement.  We fail to simply watch how people shop online, or ask where things present barriers or unnecessary complexities.  The simple act of talking to shoppers as they’re making decisions is a lost art, and the online shopping experience reflects that lack of empathy – of human understanding.

So we take the same process of employing shopping ethnographies in physical retail, and bring it to retailer.com, and how decisions and behaviors take shape there.  We use taxonomy, filtering, optimize PDPs, simplify product variation handling, and much more to help make categories more shoppable, and our clients’ brands more likely to be selected.

Any white space in the industry or areas you are looking to expand into?

We believe category, aisle, and shelf optimization is fast moving to real-time virtual tools.  We’re working to ensure we’re ahead of this, so that our unique understanding of shopper choices, and the future-focused perspective we can bring is part of that model.  We’re working with several partner firms in this area, to ensure this evolution of category management and store design becomes a truly innovative, faster, and more flexible means of optimizing the retail experience, fueled by future-focused insights.  Not simply an exercise in rearranging the furniture based on rear-view mirror data.

What is the most important thing that needs to be addressed in the category management and shopper insights disciplines going forward?

There is a love affair going on today with data.  Using people’s phone location to view retail traffic patterns, tracking online buying through surveys, eye tracking data, market structure reports, consumer decision trees, and so on.  All are important and key pieces of developing brand and category growth solutions.

But the why information is not always found in these places.  The art of the shopper ethnography, and how to extract meaning from shoppers and not just opinions, is an essential piece of having real understanding and empathy for the shopping experience.  This is at the heart of the insights we bring, and an important contributor to how we’re able to bring not just today solutions, but growth opportunities for the future, too.  It’s this longer-term view of growth strategies that sets us apart and helps set elevate our clients with their customers.

How are you thinking about the next 3-5 years in retail?

  • Expectations for Physical Retail Will Continue to Change. There’s an expectation today that physical stores should provide the kind of ease, convenience, and personalization that shopping online can. While this may be things like QR codes, VR, AR, and retailer apps today, the ways in which digital becomes more integrated into the shopping experience will continue to evolve.  We will help lead our clients in this area.
  • The Transaction Zone Will Become Frictionless. Since the introduction of AmazonGo in 2018, there’s been an evolution from traditional checkout, to self checkout, to a growing variety of “Just Walk Out” models.  We’re partnering with technology providers who are leading this store evolution, and helping clients navigate these new shopper behaviors to capture impulse driven sales.
  • Online Shopping Will Become More Intuitive. Shoppers tell us it’s largely a functional, replenishment-based experience.  One that’s encouraging planned purchases, but missing out on inspiration, discovery, and impulse.  The opportunity for incremental revenues for brands and retailers is immense.  We’re working to help define what this looks like with clients, their retail partners.
  • BOPIS Remains a Self-Limiting Factor for Grocery.com. The pick-up experience (in-store or curbside) is filled with opportunities to improve.  The challenges shoppers point to will hold back the growth of this entire channel.  We will work with brands and their retail partners to help develop a more satisfying, easy, and convenient experience, to unlock new value.